Workers at PT Smelting in Gresik, Indonesia are faced off by hundreds of police officers during the strike on 9 March 2017. Photo: FSPMI
A smelting plant in East Java that is heavily reliant on copper concentrate from PT Freeport Indonesia’s controversial Grasberg mine, has provoked a labour dispute of its own.
More than 300 workers at PT Smelting, which is jointly owned and operated by Freeport-McMoRan’s PT Freeport Indonesia and Mitsubishi Materials, have been laid off after taking strike action on 19 January 2017.
PT Freeport Indonesia supplied almost 90 per cent of PT Smelting’s concentrate requirements in 2016.
As with the 2,000 workers sacked at the massive Grasberg gold and copper mine in West Papua, PT Smelting claims that the 309 workers voluntarily resigned by taking part in the strike. None of the striking workers have been paid since then. The company has also refused benefits and rights to the family of one of the strikers who since died.
The dispute arose after PT Smelting contravened the collective bargaining agreement over wages without consulting unions. IndustriALL affiliate, the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers' Union (FSPMI), is one of the independent unions representing workers at the plant.
PT Smelting has failed to meet the local labour requirements for mediation and has referred the dispute regarding the layoffs to the industrial relations court in Gresik. The 309 workers, who include union leaders and members, have now been summoned to court for a trial beginning on 31 May.
PT Smelting has also refused an offer of mediation from the National Commission of Human Rights of Indonesia.
Unions are calling on the Japanese President Director of PT Smelting, Hiroshi Kondo, to enter into dialogue to solve the conflict. They want the company to reinstate 309 workers who have been unlawfully dismissed and comply with the Collective Agreement and Joint Working Agreement. The union is also demanding that PT Smelting provide benefits due to the wife and children of deceased worker Agus Setiawan.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
We urge PT Smelting to immediately drop the court proceedings against more than 300 workers and reinstate them. The government of Indonesia must also intervene to prevent the dispute from escalating further and stop the callous termination of workers’ contracts, which is in complete violation of international labour standards, including the right to strike.
- PT Smelting owners include PT Freeport Indonesia (25 percent), Mitsubishi Materials (60.5 percent) and Mitsubishi Corporation Unimetals (9.5%)
- PT Freeport Indonesia supplied 88 per cent of PT Smelting’s concentrate requirements in 2016.
- PT Smelting takes approximately 40-50 per cent of PT Freeport Indonesia’s output.